What do Oprah Winfrey, Helen Keller and Rosa Parks have in common? Aside from being strong women who have had a powerful cultural and political influence on American culture, they all had the guidance and support of a caring mentor. Mentorship is understood as a supportive relationship developed, most commonly, between an adult that offers their time and experience to a younger person. While mentorship can develop through formal or informal relationships, one common goal is to assist a young person in discovering their strengths while achieving their potential.
While one would tend to think that the main beneficiary of a mentor-mentee relationship is the young person, it is important to understand the value one receives when committing to a mentor role in the life of another person.
Chilean economist and author of Barefoot Economics, Manfred Max-Neef, identified nine universal human needs (subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity, and freedom). Of those, five can be received from when we give of our time and spirit to engage in an intentional mentor relationship.
Effective mentorship can provide the mentor with these 5 strengths:
When we take the time to mentor, we build meaningful relationships which have the potential to reach a depth that often goes beyond the intended outcome. Respect, care, and laughter are shared as we develop meaningful relationships that provide us with a nurturing human connection.
Being a mentor is a reciprocal relationship. While we give, we receive, gaining insight into current trends and connection to the pulse of the younger generation, which benefit both professional and personal growth. According to the learning pyramid, which categorizes the greatest methods of learning, the average learning retention rate of teaching is 90% (the highest of any). By this understanding, when we mentor we actually better understand our own subjects and industries.
Mentorship allows us to offer of our full selves, both personal and professional, to engage with our community in a meaningful way. We share experience and knowledge in a way that contributes to something larger then ourselves in order to provide a positive impact in the life of a young person.
To be an effective mentor is to be an ally and a friend, as well as encouraging good behavior and holding your mentee accountable to their life goals. In order to do this well, one needs to be bold, use their imagination and skillfully interpret and build the relationship, all of which increase and call on one’s creativity.
Similar to participation, mentorship provides a sense of belonging, as we learn about ourselves and grow in the process. When we take the time to exchange with a young person, our customs & values are expressed not only in what we say but in how we hold ourselves and the relationship.
The benefits that mentees receive are undeniable, however what any mentor can attest to are the virtues received when we encourage a young person to set and meet their goals and guide them toward reaching their inherent potential.
aManda Greene is the Co-Director of Youth SEED, whose Mission is: To support the development of community led social enterprises by providing training, resources and investment to young innovators who traditionally face barriers to economic opportunities. Youth SEED in partnership with United Roots and Impact HUB Oakland are developing Youth Impact HUB Oakland.